Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Thank you

We just checked our account and it would appear that we have some angels out there who are helping us get through this month. The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate...

... It’s not easy being volunteers. Thank you

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Wednesday, 30 May 2018

No hands are too small

Usually during the holidays we treat ourselves to a McDonalds breakfast.

It’s our little family tradition.

A combination of pancakes, sausage McMuffins and hash browns with copious amounts of unhealthy fat and sugar. My fav is the McDonald’s coffee. It’s amongst my favs. Far better, in my opinion, than Starbucks or Caffè Nero. Love it and love it when we all sit around the table, say grace together and then dive in. Breakfast usually has that silence when everyone is chewing away and there are no words but just the joy of eating. No “can you eat up your vegetables”, negotiating how many mouthfuls left, or procrastinating through toilet visits, refilling waters and so on. You get the picture. It’s a guilty pleasure. We know that there are better alternatives. But it’s our little tradition.

This holidays we were avoiding mentioning this little tradition as we have no money.

These last few weeks have been very testing. Car servicing and a decision to go for a holiday (with hardly any money) rather than wait for something to turn up.

This morning Caleb meandered in and cuddled up in bed and then reminded us that we haven’t done our usual thing. There it was. The mention of something that we were hoping to avoid. Eek.

We had to turn and explain that this time we may need to forgo our usual pleasures. That we are struggling right now. We just cannot do it. We don’t have enough. He nodded. Said nothing and we... we counted our blessings that there were no complaints or battles. He then leaves the room.

It’s tough knowing that we can’t always provide for our family especially the little things that are seemingly meaningless and even a luxury but have helped us build up our memories as a family. It’s not a big thing. We can do without it and we are no way the poorer for missing out on this silly and indeed, unhealthy, tradition.

Moments later he comes back and says I would like to pay for us to have our family tradition and treat. He had £25 in his hand.

Angie turned to me with tears in her eyes that quietly acknowledge that in one gesture of a 12 year old boy reminds us that no hands are too small to help and provide for one another. And that silly family traditions are important too. They help build us up ready for tomorrow’s challenges. Together.

Thank you son.

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Saturday, 14 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #9 In the cafe after church (Photos by Joshie)

After church we all head down to the cafe for a customary coffee and catch up.

I recall last time this was great fun. I caught up with friends and Joshie managed to take a few photos.

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Friday, 13 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #8: Football

Last time I was here I played football (and was told to people that I was Roberto Carlos)

This time we went to see the local footy club play.

It was a hot day and man was it good's. Down to 10 men. Penalty going against us and a great goal to win the game. I managed to capture the goal from the stalls (but you can't see it... though check out the response from the crowd- you can see Joshie enjoyed it!)

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Kosovo2018: #7 Through the roof

We were asked to visit an old lady.

I couldn’t work out whether she was a widow but she lives alone and she has hole in her roof. She attends the local church which Ray goes to whilst here.

The weather is better the day we visit. It was only raining slightly. Three weeks ago there was snow and I was told only a few weeks ago there was torrential rain.

We are here to take the first look at the problem. It took us a while to find. We had to ask the neighbour to phone the lady as she couldn’t hear us knocking at the gate. The house is on three floors. There’s a basement which is incomplete. The top floor is also incomplete.

There are stairs that go up but it has been covered to seal up. We go up and through to check out. It’s an incomplete house. She lives on one floor. Easier to manage. She really wants to offer us some food and drink and gets us a juice. Joshie is very happy.

After inspecting the roof area it looks like it needs new tiles and some doors and windows. Luan picks up the phone to ask his friend to come and look at the roof to give an idea of cost for a job like this.

We leave but resolve to buying some essentials and coming back to drop off. She’s not there when we come back. Joshie drops the eggs off where we left our drinks.

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Saturday, 7 April 2018

Kosovo2018 #6: Family fun

Caleb & I visited Avni (a wood cutter) and his family a couple of years ago. Caleb played football with Hasret and Avni showed me lots of photos. The girls were immense fun and they were sharing how Altonne (middle) was recovering from a deliberate hit and run- they joked she was half metal.

If I had one word to describe this family it would be blessed. There’s an immense amount of fun and appreciation in this household.

Hasret was playing his drums and they were singing songs. He even shared some of his drawing that he’s been doing. He said he’d love to learn to play the guitar someday.

There are hardships and then there’s some. I feel taught afresh being here about some of life’s simple blessings: one another.

Altonne shared: only this morning I remembered Caleb and you and I prayed for you and thanked God for you.

The gratitude is mutual as are the prayers for this family.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #5 Joshie of Gjakova

Here’s the explorer in his new habitat.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #4 Coffee

I recall hearing that Coffee is the world’s number one drink. More popular that water.

One thing I love in any country is ‘going out for coffee’. And this place is no exception.

Such a great tradition.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018: #3 Redux

Just been re-reading a few entries from the last time I was here with Caleb.

The house we are now staying in is now complete.

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Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Kosovo2018 #2: Slept in an airport

Flights are expensive.

We can do anything to make them cheaper. Including an overnight stay in Vienna.

Joshie was up for it. So was I. I’ve done it a few times before. Even my friend Ray who I gave a lift to the airport only last week did it. He is in his 60s and ‘in between’ chemo sessions. Ray has arranged most of our trip and we’re meeting him on the other side.

The adventure begins.

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Friday, 6 April 2018

Kosovo2018 #1 Joshie n Papa

Around 14 years ago I nearly left the charity sector. I was disillusioned with it. Too much money and power in the wrong hands. Saw too much of what I’d rather not in an ‘industry of help’.

I wanted out.

Teaching was my panacea. Applied. Interviewed. The university however failed to let me know that I got in. An administrative error. One that cost me my teaching career that I never had but also one which reopened the door for charity. Except this time without money. The question put to me was do you want to do this. Money aside. What do you want to do?

This is tough question- as I really didn’t know. Teaching held prospect, a safe career, respect and security. Oh and money. The other had none of these.

I asked just about everyone what I should do hoping that I could outsource this issue. I received lots of advise around pros and cons and supportive sentiments. It was only when I asked a professor (and good friend’s father) who said this exact question: what do you want to do?

I didn’t have an immediate answer as I was till trying to scramble around the what should I do the of response.

I went home.Told Angie exactly what happened and she asked me the same question: what do you want to do?

The answer was instinctive. I want to do the charity thing. I just don’t know how we will survive. She said “let’s pray now”. We did. We went to sleep. The next morning she woke up and said “let’s do this together”.

We have done this now for nearly 15 years. A few years ago I said we must start bringing our children when the time is right. That time happened for Caleb two years ago and now it’s Joshie’s turn.

Today we stepped out the door and were heading to Kosovo to see friends and start to see more of the world, but to share in what we are doing together as a family.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Rruga Nikollë Kaçorri,,

Thursday, 15 March 2018

End Poverty 2030 (can you spot the Solankys in this vid?)

See if you can spot three Solankys in this video!

A few weeks ago we took Caleb, Joshie, Reuben (and Ezra) to help make this film for a project that I'm working on called End Poverty 2030 and call to gather Christians behind the 17 Sustainable Development Goals over the next 12 years.

It was great fun to see them in front of the camera.

Thursday, 8 March 2018


Photo journalist Abdulmonam Eassa captures life inside the bombed province of Damascus, Easstern Ghouta. 

I watched as this happened in Aleppo from my armchair. 

I recall the words of broken Mostar bridge saying “don’t forget” from the war there when I visited back in 2001. 

Abdulmonam Eassa says:

“Maybe crying doesn’t help, but today I cry. I can’t say anything else. Please, someone stop the carnage. Please, someone has to stop what is happening here!”

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Old friends

I spent 3 intense years with these two. One’s now a headteacher the other teaches flying whilst not smoking pipes.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Reflections from the COP23

I have just come back from Bonn for the 23rd Conference of Parties on Climate Change (COP23).

My purpose here was following a project to respond to the Global Goals.

However what has made my time here is not just the purpose but meeting a wonderful family who have hosted me. I am beyond amazed at a family who moments before I arrived were burgled yet still welcomed me and a friend in. Their son gave up his bedroom for me. They made me amazing breakfast and offered support, comfort and love. I have been beyond welcomed.

As I left felt so sad to leave this family behind.

However there was a glimmer of hope. As we were talking the young teenage girl said she will be in the UK when doing her student exchange and it turns out she will be at the local girls school TWGGS.

Among all my travels anywhere... by far the most amazing travels I have had is in people’s houses and with people who have become my global family.

(The last picture was with some more of my global family and particularly my brother Ahmad, who I met last year in the Calais Jungle and has now resettled in Brussels and he and his girlfriend housed me en route to the Climate Summit)

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Friday, 3 November 2017

Fell off my bike

It’s Friday. The bike was out. Ready for the ride into work. Planing to listen to a podcast. It was a lovely autumn day. Crisp. Cool and stunning colours (just).

En route to work. Was overtaken by 5 cyclists. The usual indicator of my poor cycling prowess.

Then whilst eventually getting to the downhill bit (phew)and taking one of my fav corner. I indicated as usual. Then steered single handed. It didn’t feel the best of turns and with one hand felt like I’d over done it.

I had.

The bike started to freeze and the momentum was still carrying me forward. I skidded and then flew over the top. It was at an angle so the first thing to hit the ground was my elbow. It hit hard and pushed up, sharply, under my rib cage up. It was fast and hard. Due to the angle of fall a roll quickly followed. Ouch.

Lungs crushed. The hard poke took the immediate air out. The roll cushioned the blow. I get up. Just. Walk to the side and bring my bike over and collapse. Hard to breathe. Hard to breathe.

Then I hear the voices. “Are you ok?” Did you hit your head?”

People gather and try to help me relax. One lady and her daughter were practicing their driving stayed with me. Another, a man with his dog. I think it was a lovely grey colour.

They walk me to the bench which I didn’t want to sit on because of the dew. A plastic bag makes it easier though.

The lady calls Angie and then continues to talk to me. She’s a teacher and has an extended holiday this week and was helping her daughter with her DofE.

She stayed with me. She comforts me. She waits.

Angie eventually comes to take me away.

I look up at the lady and say thank you. She says I hope you get better. Please get it checked out.

What lovely neighbours we have around here. Grateful for people who stop and check in on us. Especially when we fall. They help us pick ourselves up. They help us realise that we can’t do this alone all the time. They remind us to do likewise to others.

We need more people like these. We, too, need to be these type people.

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Location:Newlands Road,Tunbridge Wells,United Kingdom

Friday, 27 October 2017

Autumn at Bedgebury

There’s a couple of weeks during October where the colours are remarkable.

Bedgebury is a great place to see it in its glory.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Wilman Road,Tunbridge Wells,United Kingdom

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

One Woman's secret to happiness that made me smile :)

I like watching youtube clips.

Ever since I had an creative intern who loved them... to the point he would stop everyone either through trying not to create a scene by laughing so hard that you couldn't help interrupt him to say "Whassup?" or he is right there, in your face, with his laptop saying " have got to watch this". It wasn't a choice.

I might add he was a visual creative and such clips masterfully formed his style... and he did some great video work for us.

This one I saw recently and I think the guy in the vid (Julian) sums it up well to say you have taught us more in the past 2 minutes than we have ever done. It's on happiness. A term that I am hearing a lot right now. It seems elusive and yet a goal for so many...

The happiest person I think that I ever knew was my grandmother. Not that I knew her much as she was in India when I was growing up... but whenever I saw her she was always smiling. One of those smiles that really made you feel special.